When Google originally announced they were sunsetting the third-party cookie, they set the expectation of a 2022 end date. However, they recently announced that they will now allow third-party cookies until late 2023. The reasoning behind this is to give the advertising community and Chrome-dependent publishers more time to develop privacy-safe and commercially viable alternatives to third-party cookies.
What this means for advertisers
While third party cookie deprecation in Chrome did not take the market by surprise (Safari and Firefox already disallow this technology), and even though some progress has been made in Google’s Privacy Sandbox initiative, publishers and advertisers are still scrambling to understand and apply privacy-compliant digital infrastructure and advertising practices. Scores of leading third-party ad tech companies are rushing to scale cookieless alternatives, however, many of these solutions are designed to appeal to the immediate needs of advertisers, not enhance consumer privacy standards. As a result, much of this technology looks an awful lot like cookies and will continue to invite further policy revisions and legislation like GDPR/CCPA down the road. Knowing this, advertisers should use this delay to reimagine marketing strategies built on consumer trust and reduced reliance on increasingly powerful walled gardens.
To make a long story short: This announcement doesn’t change anything. It just gives advertisers more time to prepare for the change and figure out how to put the power in the hands of the consumer.
Give control back to the consumer: While imperfect, third-party cookies provided advertisers unpreceded insight into consumer behavior and attribution measurement. To prepare for their absence, advertisers should focus on their own first-party data, which should be a combination of customer data and web behavior observed with first-party cookies, which will still be allowed in the future-state. Your first-party data set should also be defined by clear opt-out mechanisms both on owned properties (i.e. targeting consent opt-ins similar to what we see widely today in result of GDPR/CCPA), and opt-outs at every advertising touchpoint (think Preference centers for email, and built-in opt-outs on your digital banners). It might seem counter-intuitive to tried and true marketing tactics that rely on scale to drive efficiency, but gaining clear consent to advertise to consumers will not only create a high-fidelity view of your customers for modeling and analytics, but also make sure that your ads are relevant to a receptive audience. While there will be a learning curve for advertisers, opt-in mechanisms like this will reduce ad spend waste in the short term and campaign success in the long term with a better customer experience.
Invest in identity resolution: Identity resolution means taking disparate tech footprints and linking them together at the individual level. By removing third-party cookies, the identity landscape will become even more siloed. To future-proof multi-channel marketing it’s imperative to bring identity resolution in-house to marry to your core first-party data set. Third-party data is vital to this process as privacy-compliant data providers will help fill identity gaps once informed by probabilistic identity solutions reliant on third-party cookies today. The value of having a single view of your customers and prospects is obvious: consistent, relevant messaging across channels improves campaign performance and improves customer experience.
Choose an offline data partner: Advertisers shouldn’t be completely new to working with offline data. Browsers such as Safari and Firefox have been operating effectively without cookies for some time. As Chrome, our most used browser,1 sunsets the cookie, offline sources will weather this change effectively. Some examples of offline data include contact information, purchase histories, loyalty card data, demographic data, etc. Having a third-party data provider whose data is “future-proofed” (i.e., not currently informed by third-party cookies) will ensure your audience targeting strategy is positioned well for the upcoming changes. In fact, clients that leverage Data Axle data to enhance offline audiences before onboarding have seen as much as a 60% increase in match rates, resulting in more targetable ads.For example, Data Axle’s Customer Database is informed by offline sources such as utility new connects, real estate data, voter registration, credit card transactions and other public sources. Each year, more than 29 billion records are processed against our Consumer Database to provide consistent reinforcement and data integrity. Approximately 3-4 days after a connection has occurred, Data Axle receives a utility new connect. There are many different types of new connects including service provider changes, line extensions, reconnects and new movers. Data Axle then compares new connects against the consumer database to identify the non-mover population and unique records are flagged as new movers. These new movers are then incorporated in the database on the next monthly update cycle.
Now that the deprecation of cookies has been pushed back, advertisers have more time to finesse their strategies and invest in the right data and technologies.
My advice: Don’t take shortcuts. Do this right, and you will be glad you did.
For over 10 years James Purtle has driven digital data and media strategy for Fortune 500 brands and Agencies. As an expert in predictive marketing, he has created go-to-market strategies for major programmatic Ad Tech and Data Management platforms and currently helps oversee digital activation strategy for Data Axle. In his free time, he enjoys watching movies with his wife and their two dogs and rooting for the Yankees.